The importance of family in the mental health of young people.

This week we celebrate Early Years Week where we invite families onto campus for a variety of activities. As a school counsellor, I enjoy seeing families participating and cheering their children on because I know how much of a difference it makes to the mental health development of young people. It is well documented that family is among the most important contributors in young people’s mental health development for a number of reasons. In this article, I want to touch on two.

Emotional self-regulation

This is a fundamental skill for young people to develop without which life becomes very difficult and school can become overwhelming. When we look at how self-regulation develops in young people, we really need to understand that co-regulation precedes self-regulation. Co-regulation occurs when the parent guides and directs their child’s emotional state toward regulation whilst simultaneously maintaining their own. This can be a very difficult job to do indeed and no doubt all of us have dropped the ball at one time or another. When children are supported by consistently safe co-regulating parental relationships, they start to develop a blueprint on how to do self-regulation well.

Perhaps you have been or going through a very difficult time in life and you are aware that maybe the co-regulating relationship with your child hasn’t been what you wanted it to be. Take heart from this quote by Deb Dana. “Hopefulness lies in knowing that while early experiences shape the nervous system, ongoing experiences can reshape it”.

Social Media Gatekeepers.

I struggle to see the need for any primary school student to have a social media account, let alone unsupervised access to the internet, a place where anyone from anywhere can have access to your child. Perhaps there are valid reasons for which parents have come across, however this would be news to me. In my opinion, parents have an enormously weighty decision to make as to when they decide to allow their children access to social media. Give it too early their minds will no doubt be exposed to psychologically harming content but give it too late they perhaps will already be on it without your knowledge. Part of the difficulty is to parent and guide your child through something which you yourself did not have or experience.

As a primary school parent, you are the only gatekeeper your child has to an online world that holds content that is beyond the capacity of your child’s mind to deal with. Whenever that time comes when your children gain access to social media, they will need to know that you are someone they can run to not run away from when they experience problems.

Extra resources:

Internet Addiction – School TV

Digital Reputation – School TV

Cyber Bullying – School TV